Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (NASU)
Counsel and Warning
I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Eph 1:18-19a NIV)
Jesus called the Laodiceans wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. The only things that count are the treasures of the Lord, the magnificent inheritance that He has for us. Jesus told them exactly what is needed to produce true wealth, sight, and clothing. No saint of God, no matter how impoverished, can be described as wretched and pitiful. This is a clear indication that most of the people in the Laodicean church were not Christians. Think about some of our Christian brothers and sister who are living in what we would consider absolute poverty. These often voice and demonstrate the joy of the Lord more than those who have the riches of this world. It all begins with faith.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. (1 Peter 1:6-8 NKJV)
Jesus is talking about this is the kind of gold. It is the gold of faith. Faith is a gift and cannot be earned so what He is saying is that we must come to Him to receive true gold. This kind of faith is refined by trouble. Adversity cleans and purifies us. But look at the attitude that the Laodiceans expressed, “I need nothing.” Jesus says that He disciplines and rebukes those He loves. In a sense, we should be looking forward to and expecting trials because they will prove our faith. When they come, we should welcome them as friends.
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. (James 1:2-3 NLT)
Ho, every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Hearken diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in fatness. RSV (Isa 55:1-2)
Food and other things that we buy from the Lord are in actuality gifts. They don’t cost us money since we don’t work for them. We ask for them and they are given to us. The Laodiceans didn’t have these things of faith and there is only one place they can get them, from Jesus. God could have been speaking directly to the Laodiceans when Isaiah penned these words. More importantly, He is speaking to us at this time. The physical things of this world that we think we need and bring worldly satisfaction are temporary. They don’t produce lasting satisfaction. That is why we need to seek our satisfaction in Jesus.
This is what occurred in the church in Laodicea. They knew what Jesus said on the mount, but they don’t live that way. Instead they are thinking otherwise. Wretched are the proud, for they will grab what they want on earth. Wretched are they who scorn death, for they think it will not take them. Wretched are the self indulgent, for their goals will be met. Wretched are those who are self-righteous, for their works will never end. Wretched are the bitter, for they will always have someone to hold a grudge against. Wretched are the depraved, for they have no thoughts about God. Wretched are those who enjoy a fight; they are the sons of the devil. Wretched are those who do what the crowd does; their friends in hell will be many. Wretched are those who would rather die than confess Christ, they will die in the second death.
For he will deliver the needy when he cries for help, The afflicted also, and him who has no helper. He will have compassion on the poor and needy, And the lives of the needy he will save. (Ps 72:12-13 NASB)
Jesus calls the people at Laodicea pitiful. The Lord has compassion on people; He is ready to help them. But they need to cry out and admit their need. One of their big needs was clean clothes.
We can start all the way back in Gen 3:21 to see that clothing is a symbol of righteousness. The only righteous covering for us is what we receive from God. Adam and Eve tried to cover their nakedness (sins) with their own clothing, and unbelievers try to cover their spiritual nakedness with their own works. In Ex 39, the clothes that the priests had to wear were intricately described. These priestly garments are like the law. The law was provided by God to show that man cannot live by it, because it is beyond our capabilities. How could anyone have thought up the garments for the priests? They too, were provided as a symbol of the vainness of trying to please God by our works. We have to wear what He has provided, not what we dream up. Contrast this with the simplicity of what Jesus says in Rev 3:5. Our clothes will be white, clean, and pure when we simply trust in Jesus alone for our salvation.
The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! (Matt 6:22-23 ESV)
The Laodiceans were told to buy salve to put on their eyes so that they could see. Their eyes were bad because they were fixed on the things of the world instead of Jesus. What was entering their lives was precisely what the world is trying to sell to us today in America and around the world. We are told to get a vision of wealth and prosperity and to work for it with that vision in our mind. We are taught that our short and long-term goals should be constructed to support what we have visualized. This teaching even creeps into some churches when we forget that visions that come from God will always be accomplished but not necessarily the visions that we dream up. When we try to fulfill our own material visions, our focus will be on material things and our whole life will eventually be filled with and revolve around things. If we use the salve of the Word of God to heal our eyes, then we can see Jesus and the vision that He has already given us. This is a vision with which we should be filled and consumed.
I read about a missionary who is in Brazil. His duties include overseeing the flight operations for the transportation of translators and their equipment. He could just as well be doing the same work for some oil exploration company. I can see that his eyes are focused on Jesus and he is being used to enable others to bring the Word to places that would otherwise be impossible to reach. This man and his family will never get rich but they can truly say that they have need of nothing.
Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. (Matt 15:14 KJV)
Blind guides are what the leaders at Laodicea had become and as a result the church went the same way. If we have poor teaching from the pulpit, the church will become poor. We can’t blame everything on our leaders though. It is our responsibility to stay alert and see what is happening. First of all, we need to pray continually for our church leaders. The enemy would dearly love to be able to get them off the straight and narrow so that they, in turn, could divert a whole congregation. We also need to go to them if we have a problem with any teaching and have them explain to us what they mean. If you have an occasion to do this, remember that they are human too, and a confrontational approach may only alienate you rather than get them back on the correct path. The leaders need to be open to these concerns and not feel like they always have to be right either. This only leads to defensiveness. If they are well on their way toward becoming blind, it is practically impossible to approach them.
Symptoms of approaching blindness can be seen when they go into their “teaching” mode and tell you the “right” answer without giving you the opportunity to question or explore other views. Confirmed blindness is demonstrated when they are clearly off base and as a result of your attempt to point out the problem, you are considered an enemy of Christ and avoided if not ostracized. If you want to see an example of this in action, read John 9:13-34. This was an extreme example; however, I have seen varying degrees of tunnel vision, if not blindness, among otherwise great pastors. To keep from becoming blind or being led by the blind, the only thing to do is to get into the Word and study it for ourselves. It is probably obvious that the people in the church at Laodicea were not in God’s Word regularly.
But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. (2 Cor 3:14-16 NIV)
Even studying the Word will not be of any use unless we are reading with a heart that is honestly searching for God. Many people claim to be looking for God, but in the process have rejected Jesus. They aren’t honest in their attempt to find God because they have already made up their minds that Jesus can’t be God. They are veiled by their own desire to find a god that fits their own definition. Only by coming to Him on His terms can we ever get any spiritual understanding. The first spiritual understanding given to us is that we are sinners, that we need to be cleansed by the blood of Jesus, and that we need to submit our lives to Him. From that point on our eyes are opened and we can see how the Word applies to us. We can’t come to the Word to support our worldly ideas; rather we need to come to find out what He has to say to us.
Rebukes and Discipline
Isn’t this an interesting promise? Whomever He loves, He rebukes and disciplines. Rebuke is a verbal action that precedes discipline if the rebuke isn’t heeded. Jesus was verbally tough with the church at Laodicea, so He reaffirms that if He did not love them, He would not be saying anything. Discipline does not only mean to chasten when someone does wrong, but it also means to restrain or put limits on someone. It is a means to teach self-control. The church can either repent and submit to His discipline for restraint or enter into the next phase, which would be His chastening. The order in which Jesus addressed these churches isn’t random. It is appropriate that this church is the last that He addresses. In the next chapters, we will be seeing the discipline that will come on the whole world.
The Lord has used verbal communications to convey His message by His prophets and then when Jesus came in the flesh (Heb 1:1-2). We have these written for us to read now. His rebuke also comes though His Holy Spirit in our conscience as well. We have all been pricked when we have done something wrong and He lets us know, especially when we are reading His Word. Proverbs 1:20-33 tells of God’s wisdom attempting to reach out to fools.
Turn to my reproof, Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you. (Prov 1:23 NASU)
I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes. (Prov 1:26 NASU)
But he who listens to me shall live securely And will be at ease from the dread of evil. (Prov 1:33 NASU )
Look at the promise to those who will listen, He will pour out His spirit on us! By His Spirit, His words are made know to us. On the other hand, it is really sad to see people who are doing it all on their own and are miserable. The wisdom that they ignore will mock them in the end. The last promise for those who heed God’s wisdom is to have a life that the Laodiceans think they have, but do not, to be at ease and without fear of harm.
There is a prevailing thought among many Christians regarding chastisement. Many believe that if you have some problems in your life, it is because God is disciplining you for your sin. For example, if your health is bad, it is because you have done something wrong and God wants you to repent. By applying the same logic in reverse, they believe that the Christian who is prospering is one who is walking with the Lord. They have taken one aspect of truth and camped out on it, ignoring the full teaching of the Word. It is true that when we undergo trials, we should look to see if it is associated with something that we have done wrong. However, we can’t assume that this is the only reason we have trials, because discipline also comes to strengthen us and build us. Trials also come to us to bring glory to God (John 9:1-3). The example of the church at Laodicea proves that prosperity and a close walk with Jesus doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with each other.
If God doesn't discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. (Heb 12:8 NLT)
Now let’s see what happens when we twist logic and use this verse to say that a Christian who is not experiencing persecution or having problems is not walking close to the Lord. This verse is dealing with discipline as correction. Our theory that true Christians should be experiencing discipline overlooks the fact that discipline also means enlightening. If a person is learning from the Word and the example of others, the Lord may see that trouble is not needed to test his faith as Prov 1:33 indicates.
The danger in either case is to forget about the sovereignty of God and to think that we can predict what He is going to do with a person based on a few verses used to support our perspective. An important lesson that we can learn from the church in Laodicea is that prosperity is not a sign of God’s approval of our life style nor is it a condemnation.
For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter. (2 Cor 7:11 NASB)
His command is to be zealous or earnest and repent when we do find ourselves being disciplined for our sins. Zeal or earnestness and repentance are tied together in this verse. It is this longing for justice and the things of God that keeps us on the straight and narrow. When you love God, you are eager to do what pleases Him. You can grow in your relationship to the point that you don’t have to be asked to do something because you know His nature. When we realize that we have not been pleasing the Lord, we will also long to please Him and therefore repent.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor 12:10 NKJV)
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. (Phil 4:11-12 NKJV)
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:13-14 NKJV)
The Laodiceans were comfortable in their riches, Paul delighted in his hardships. It is important to form Paul’s attitude early our Christian life. These verses need to guide us when we repent from being caught up in seeking riches and forget about Jesus. Paul learned the secret of being content. Paul was content in physical things but was not content with spiritual things. We will never be content with our spiritual development until Jesus comes again, however knowing that can make us content in continual growth. It is a mark of maturity to know that we always need to grow. This is a paradox of spiritual life; spiritual discontentment brings contentment. On the other hand, worldly discontentment only brings more discontentment. Of course, we know that maturity is only possible because of Who lives in us.
I Stand At the Door and Knock
This is the promise to a dead church. These people are not Christians; otherwise He would not be on the outside knocking to get in. He would not have called them wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. These are all descriptions of people who haven’t dressed themselves in Jesus and His righteousness. In this sense, He is giving a call to all people who do not know Him. This promise is to any who hear His voice. Note that they first need to hear. Once a person has opened his mind to Jesus and let Him in, then the door of fellowship can be opened. It is a promise to be close and intimate. When we share our food with another, we have partaken in something that gives life. It is easier to talk to Him and in many cases it provides an opening to deep conversations.
This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says: “You shall indeed hear but never understand, and you shall indeed see but never perceive. For this people's heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.” (Matt 13:13-15 RSV)
Jesus quotes from Is 6:9, 10, to explain an extraordinary truth that it takes more than physical eyes to see a miracle or hear even the Lord Himself teach and understand. It takes the gift of God. Not all who hear the voice of Jesus will open the door because they have not heard with spiritual ears. We are much like them. They have filtered what they hear with their own wisdom, through the influence of the world, but probably most important they have interpreted it in relation to their own desires and their own calloused hearts.
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: (John 1:12 KJV)
This is a very familiar verse. It is tied together with believing on His name. It is apparent that receiving is much more than simply asking someone to drop by for a visit. In that day, if you invited someone in, you were in a sense making them part of your family, offering them food and shelter. But even more than that, they became the master and you served them. You would not want to invite someone in unless you agreed with his or her views, his or her life, etc. Having Jesus in your home as Martha, Mary, and Lazarus did was to give Him support and aid. I think this is the idea that is behind receiving Jesus. It is more than the idea of “accepting” Him into your heart. When I pray with people, I always ask them to pray that Jesus will come into their life and become the Lord of their life. It is more accurate and more meaningful to them than to simply ask Him to come into their heart.
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person's reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward. (Matt 10:37-42 ESV)
Jesus started off talking about the cost of discipleship which makes it sound very difficult. Then on the heels of that, He makes it sound like receiving Him is as simple as being kind to a disciple. This may be a very accurate concept of what it means to become a Christian; on the other hand, the verse in John 1:12 says that because they received Him, it only gave them the right to become children of God, it does not say they became children of God. As we look at each “because” used in these verses we can see that the attitude of receiving is tied to the kind of person who is being helped. Again, the whole concept of receiving a disciple or supporting a disciple requires us to be in agreement with that person and their mission in life.
Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me. (Mark 9:37 NIV)
If someone is truly receiving a disciple of Jesus or a child in the name of Jesus, a barrier has started to come down. His heart has softened and that is something that the Holy Spirit can use. I can’t say that someone who is only kind and sympathetic to a Christian has himself become a Christian, but if he receives them in the name of Jesus, the Word indicate that a person will not lose his reward. Praise God! However, the phrase “in my name” implies a lot of understanding and agreement as to who Jesus is and what He stands for.
… that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; … (Eph 3:17 NASU)
Jesus does dwell in our hearts. This verse does support the prayer for a person to ask Jesus to come into his or her heart. But it also goes much further. The relationship may start with dining together, but that is only the first step to a very deep and personal love relationship. If we truly understand what it means to have Jesus in our hearts, if we have fellowship with Him, then the lordship and discipleship relationship is a natural outcome. If we only pay lip service to having Him in our heart, then we become like the church at Laodicea, lukewarm.
Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. (1 John 3:24 NKJV)
This verse brings us back to obedience. How do we know that Jesus is in our heart? We know because we obey Him. Why do we obey Him? It is because He is in our hearts and we love Him and that makes us want to obey. If we obey because of rules and regulations, we become like the church at Ephesus forgetting our first love. If we don’t obey, but claim Him, we become like the church at Sardis, which can degenerate into the church at Laodicea if we don’t wake up.
When we dine with someone, two-way conversation takes place. We communicate and get to know each other. How many times have you gone to dinner with someone who was either a perfect stranger or someone you knew only slightly? After dinner you were actually friends. Jesus is offering all whom He has chosen a growing and deepening relationship. The offer is not given just to the spiritually elite but to all who have heard His voice. There is no reason that every Christian cannot be extremely close to Jesus. We may not have a visible or glamorous part in the body, but we can be very close. We may not be called to have the ministry of Billy Graham, but we are called to be just as close to Jesus as he is.
The Lord is in his holy temple, the Lord's throne is in heaven; his eyes behold, his eyelids test, the children of men. The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and his soul hates him that loves violence. On the wicked he will rain coals of fire and brimstone; a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup. (Ps 11:4-6 RSV)
God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne. The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God; he is highly exalted! (Ps 47:8-9 RSV)
From His throne God observes, examines, judges, and carries out His judgments. He has promised that we will sit with Him on His throne. It is mind boggling that Jesus has promised us that we will participate in His rule.
His throne is a position of exaltation from which He rules. We may be seated with Jesus on His throne, but when it comes to worship, we will be before Him giving Him praise and honor and glory.
Son of man, give the prince of Tyre this message from the Sovereign Lord: "In your great pride you claim, 'I am a god! I sit on a divine throne in the heart of the sea.' But you are only a man and not a god, though you boast that you are a god.” (Ezek 28:2 NLT)
These verses go on to explain that the people in Tyre had amassed great wealth and thought they were wise. Instead, they were simply proud. God’s promise to them is that they will go down to the pit and die a violent death. What was happening in Laodicea had already happened before in Tyre and can happen to us today. Whenever we put inordinate importance on anything other than the Lord, it doesn’t just become our god but in a true sense we are setting ourselves up to be a god because we have made our priorities more important than God’s priorities. Compare the outcome of Tyre with what Jesus says to those who become believers. He will give us the right to rule with Him. This is not something we can assume for ourselves, and most important, it still puts us in the proper subjective role to Him. (This is in no way the same thing that cults promote when they say that we will be exalted to godhood.) When Jesus says, “Just as I overcame and sat down with my Father,” He is essentially saying, “In the same way I submitted and still submit to the Father.” I have heard some of the prosperity gospel preachers claim that we are little gods and that this nation is prospering because of the prosperous little gods (Christians) in it. If this kind of gospel continues to spread, then we will end up at the mercy of a ruthless nation. These verses to Tyre written so long ago are a perfect rebuttal of the prosperity gospel. In Ezek 28:9 God almost sarcastically asks them in the midst of being destroyed if they are going to say, “I am a god.” Let’s make sure we don’t mistake His promise to sit with Him for more that it is.
And Jesus said to them, "Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, shall receive many times as much, and shall inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.” (Matt 19:28-30 NASB)
In these verses, Jesus describes our joint ruling in that His throne or power is delegated to twelve thrones. Likewise, we will be ruling with Him but the power and position is definitely delegated, it in no way implies that it puts us on an equal footing with Jesus. This also describes the fact that we need to give our all to Him. Our reward is in receiving back from Him much more than we will ever give up. Sometimes we need to trust this promise more than any other promises. When we feel the need to compromise just to placate someone or not follow His clear calling because we think we have a “need” for something else, we need to remember that we are working for eternal rewards. There is also a warning in these verses. If we are putting ourselves first by seeking authority in this life, we will be last in heaven. This is not the same as responding to His call to be in a position of authority, but it is a warning for all who are tying to chart their own destiny, especially Christians, who are planning their lives and then asking God to bless their plans instead of asking Him what His plans are and working toward them.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:2 NIV)
The promised throne also has an aspect of rest. The worst is over. The things that will make an eternal difference have been done. Jesus had the most important thing to do, but likewise He calls us to do things that will have an eternal outcome. When they are finished and we are with Him, we will also rest from the things of this current life. But just as Jesus is still active, holding all things together, this is a different type of rest. Our rest will come because the opposition of Satan and our fleshly desire for sin will have been removed. Praise be to God!
Church History - Churches Today.
Laodicea was a church that had turned completely to the world. They measured themselves by the world’s standards, thinking they were rich, but they were spiritually bankrupt. Jesus loved them, as He does all sinners, but there isn’t any indication that there were any Christians in this church. The well-known invitation to have fellowship with Jesus indicates that they were not having fellowship with Him. If He is standing on the outside asking to come in to a person’s life, then that person is not a Christian. In history, this may very well represent the majority of churches in the last times before the rapture. It certainly makes it easier for a one-world religion to get started when there is no witness coming from the church. Today, we see more and more churches headed this way. Most of the larger denominational churches have become comfortable in the world. They are not Christian from the standpoint that they teach against the virgin birth and other fundamentals of the Christian faith.
If you belong to a good fundamental church, you probably identified yourself with the church at Philadelphia or Smyrna. I often forget what it is like in other churches because I think they are more like mine. When we are on vacation, we usually find a church that is like ours so we can worship on Sunday. When the church turns out different, we are shocked, yet blessed that we have a good Bible-believing church when we return home.
Let’s remember these seven churches and how we can apply what we learned to our own lives and our own churches. Let’s do all in our power to love Jesus and not to become trapped by the snares of the world. If we do that, then our churches will flourish.